A constable died and 20 other policemen were injured on Tuesday when a mob of 1,000 people attacked a contingent sent to Gobindapur rail colony, along Rabindra Sarobar, to evict settlers.
Fifty-four-year-old Samsuddin Khan, who died, and his colleagues came under brickbat attack as soon as they arrived at the spot, in compliance with a high court order, to clear the colony of settlers for the preservation of the Lakes.
Among the injured were deputy commissioner (south) N. Ramesh Babu and two assistant commissioners, S.P. Dutta and D. Bhattacharjee. Twenty-seven people have been arrested.
Most of the settlers had vacated the spot after the state government announced that a plot in Nonadanga, off EM Bypass, would be allotted to them for their rehabilitation. The few who remained refused to budge and fought a pitched battle with police to thwart ' unsuccessfully ' the eviction drive that targeted a large cluster of shanties near the Charu Market overbridge.
'They rained acid bottles, empty cylinders, stones and other items on our men. Khan died in hospital, most probably of internal bleeding,' said Prasun Mukherjee, commissioner of police.
'We could not lob tear-gas shells at them or resort to a stronger method for fear of more violence. The area is full of highrises and the incident occurred during office hours. Had we not shown restraint, things would have spun out of control,' he explained.
Home secretary Prasad Ranjan Roy said: 'We had persuaded most settlers to leave the colony and resettle at the Bypass site. A small section stayed back and indulged in violence.'
Around 9.30 am, a police contingent reached the site, near Tollygunge station, to help municipal workers clear the encroachments.
The sight of municipal workers appearing with pay-loaders, police and railway staff infuriated the settlers, who had vowed a few days ago not to leave without a fight.
They first attacked the policemen and then directed their ire towards a local train that was entering Tollygunge station. The driver immediately took the train back to Lake Gardens.
After an initial retreat, the mob regrouped around 11 am and launched a fresh attack on the cops. Deputy commissioner Babu said: 'One of the missiles hit me on the left leg. As I tried to regain balance, I noticed constable Khan had collapsed after being hit on the neck and chest by stones. He still participated in the drive for an hour, before being taken to hospital.'
Five policemen, including officers, were taken to Police Hospital. Three were discharged after primary treatment. Randhir Kumar and Samsuddin Khan, both attached to Charu Market thana, were admitted to SSKM Hospital. Khan died at 1.43 pm.
The eviction began under the supervision of three divisional commissioners of police. A few hundred workers of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, CESC and Eastern Railways took part in it.